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Towards a fossil-free energy in 2050

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Building the infrastructure to decarbonise the EU’s energy system by 2050 through large amounts of green gas is projected to be up to 36% more expensive than through energy efficiency and smart electrification, even in European countries with a cold climate, according to “Towards fossil-free energy in 2050”, conducted by Element Energy and Cambridge Econometrics, and commissioned by the European Climate Foundation.


The study  offers an in-depth analysis of the integration of power, road transport and residential heating sectors across Europe.


It looks at six scenarios covering a wide range of zero-carbon technologies and energy carriers for a set of archetypes that represent the different climatic zones of Europe (Northern European vs Mediterranean).


The report finds that several different configurations of fossil-free energy system are feasible in Europe and each comes with socio-economic benefits when compared to a current-policies baseline.


But clear infrastructure choices and robust policies are required to steer the transition in ways that keep the economy competitive while securing the best deal for European citizens.


The trio of objectives sometimes known as the ‘energy trilemma’ (sustainability, security and affordability) are generally thought to be in tension. But this report suggests the reverse.


They can mutually support each other. What stands out from the study are the potential savings in energy spending for households of up to €23 billion compared to a current policies baseline, as well as the net creation of a potential 1.8 million jobs across Europe, if a pathway including deep efficiency and smart electrification is chosen.


The report identifies three features of a fossil-free energy system that are common to all possible configurations: building efficiency, clean electricity and smart electrification, long-term storage.


The analysis confirms the importance of maximising energy efficiency and smart electrification, while steering available green hydrogen to the specific applications where it can add the highest value, being: seasonal storage for peak electricity supply in winter time.


These findings, on the economics and energy system implications of green hydrogen, underline the need for careful use of green hydrogen, avoiding competition with smart electrification and buildings efficiency.